Mike Petke: “I have personal relationships with them, but there is a fine line that I am the coach.” (Robert Hitz/RSL)

By Michael Lewis

Front Row Soccer Editor

At one time, Mike Petke palled around with the likes of Chris Wingert, Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman.

He was the teammate of two players and went to the high school of a third.

Yet, as the new head coach of Real Salt Lake, the former Red Bulls head coach knows there must be a dividing line between being the boss and being friends.

“I have personal relationships with them, but there is a fine line that I am the coach,” Petke said during his introductory press conference at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah Wednesday. “The respect factor of me to them is 100 percent. I know that the respect factor back to me is the same.

“But there is dynamic. I am not going to go out and have beer with these guys, but that is normal. We’re going to work together. Those three players specifically, amongst others — being how long they’ve been here, where they have been in world soccer, they need to be a big part of this rebuilding process and the success. I’m going to rely on them a lot.”

So, how close has the 41-year-old Petke been with this trio?

Let’s find out:

Petke and defender Chris Wingert, 34, of Babylon, N.Y. went to the same high school — St. John the Baptist on Long Island five or six years apart.

“When i was there, he was a ball boy there and I never let him forget that,” Petke said. “Where he has come from, from being a ball boy to where he is and where his career has taken him, it’s unbelievable. And I have a very good relationship with Chris.”

Next comes 37-year-old goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who was a member of the 2004 MLS Cup championship D.C. United along with Petke.

“I had the pleasure of playing with him in D.C. and winning a championship with him,” Petke said. “We always knew that there was something special about him. To see where he is now with the national team is a credit to him but to the people on the way who helped him out there.”

And then there’s U.S. international midfielder Kyle Beckerman, 34, whom Petke played with when both players were with the Colorado Rapids.

“One of the best trades as an opposing team was when RSL picked up Kyle Beckerman,” Petke said.